Though the nation's labor markets are beginning to stir to life, mortgage banking and brokerage companies added just 900 full-time jobs in September, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The mortgage numbers — which lag national figures by a month — show that residential finance firms (including loan brokerages) employed 246,400 full-timers at the end of September, a slight rise from August, but a loss of 12,800 jobs from the year earlier.

However, recent interviews conducted by National Mortgage News indicated that mortgage companies are starting to hire again to deal with a swelling volume of refinancings.

For example, Jeff Freud, a principal in LoanMarket.net, a California-based Web-enabled loan exchange, said he hopes to hire two account managers a month for the next several months.

The September numbers reflect the industry as it was before the foreclosure documentation crisis, an event that forced many servicers to hire during October. These hirings should show up in the October mortgage employment numbers, which will be released in early December.

Meanwhile, U.S. businesses added 151,000 workers during October, but the national unemployment rate remained at 9.6%. Still, economists welcomed the report, which showed much bigger job gains than anticipated.

The stronger overall hiring numbers should help diminish the foreclosure crisis somewhat as mortgagors return to work.

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